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Morristown Assocs. v. Grant Oil Co.

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20221
Nos. A-0313-11T3, (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div., 11/17/2015)

In an unpublished opinion, a New Jersey appellate court held that the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (Spill Act) does not contain a "triggering notice" in order for liability to attach. Rather, a party seeking contribution must prove a nexus or "reasonable link between the discharge, the putative discharger, and the contamination at the specifically damaged site." The case arose after a commercial property owner filed a contribution action against several oil companies. A motions judge dismissed the claims, holding that the six-year statute of limitations for property damage applies to private claims for contribution made under the Spill Act. The appellate court affirmed, but the New Jersey Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter to the appellate court. On remand, the appellate court held that the motions judge erred in ruling that Spill Act liability requires a triggering notice. The appellate court also held that there was a genuine issue of material fact concerning the oil companies' connection to the contamination. At trial, the owner must establish a nexus between each defendant and the fuel-oil contamination. But the owner need not prove that the companies had triggering notice that the oil was leaking.